What were your favorite philosophy courses at UCLA?
Philosophy of Mind (with Tyler Burge), Topics In Metaphysics (with Joseph Almog, Tony Martin), 20th Century History of Philosophy (with Andrew Hsu), Seminar On Self-Knowledge (with Andrew Hsu), Society and Morals (with Seanna Shiffrin), Philosophy of Language (course “C” with David Kaplan)
Are there any philosophical issues, readings, or topics that have stayed with you since graduation?
I continued on to graduate school at Oxford, and focused mainly on the philosophy of mind, and philosophical logic. I enjoyed delving into metaphysics of mind, which isn’t covered too extensively in the undergrad program at UCLA. Specifically, I enjoyed thinking about why a priori physicalism is wrong. I also enjoyed (and still enjoy) thinking about what makes first-personal thinking about oneself special.
Lately I’ve been very interested in political philosophy. Specifically, I’ve become interested in two quite different topics: (1) the value of democracy, (2) social contract theory. That is, I’m curious whether democracy has anything more than instrumental value, and I’m curious whether (or how) we can construct a contract theory of legitimacy for a diverse society (i.e. a society full of political disagreements).
Have you read any philosophy recently that you would recommend?
I’m not sure to whom I’m recommending, or for what purpose exactly (e.g. for undergrads going into grad school, for leisurely reading etc.), so I’m not sure what to recommend (there’s plenty of interesting stuff out there).
However, one book in particular that I think deserves a “shoutout” is Jason Brennan’s “Against Democracy”. It’s very accessible given its breezy style, and bucks the trend in democratic theory.
What was your first job or endeavor after UCLA?
I continued on to grad school in philosophy.
What lessons or skills from philosophy do you use in your career?
It’s terribly cliché, but it’s true that studying philosophy trains one to think more clearly, and analytically. This is not always the case in other disciplines. So while one may not pursue professional philosophy, philosophical training can certainly help sharpen one’s thinking, and this is valuable in many ways.
Also, studying philosophy has made me more thoughtful, which I think is an important part of living a good life (market value aside).
Do you have advice for current students or recent graduates about how to take advantage of and continue their philosophical education?
I’m not sure what “taking advantage of a philosophical education” amounts to. Is the question asking how students can best present their philosophical education to potential employers? If so, I don’t have any specific advice (I could probably use some myself). However, I would encourage philosophy students to never be shy about their philosophical education. Many people have misunderstandings about what philosophy consists in. This is understandable, and philosophy students should take the opportunity to demonstrate that their education has made them sharper, and more intellectually mature.
If the second part of this question is asking about advice regarding graduate study in philosophy, then I think I can offer some insight.
First, I’d recommend to any student planning to pursue graduate school to make up their minds as quickly as possible what broad area of philosophy they’re most interested, e.g. epistemology vs. applied ethics.